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#HomeToVote: Ireland’s referendum to repeal the eighth amendment set for May 25th 2018

If you, like me, try to keep abreast of all news concerning abortion and women’s reproductive rights, you will know that a referendum has been set for the 25th of May 2018 in Ireland, to consider whether the country should repeal the eighth amendment.

The eighth amendment criminalises abortion in all cases, except where continuing with the pregnancy would result in death. Protesters have been fighting for this amendment to be repealed for a long time, and a date has finally been set for the citizens of Ireland to have their voices heard.

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Sadly, I am not Irish, and so I have no right to vote in this referendum, though I am able to raise my voice through this blog and other means, and support the movement to appeal it. Abortion is a choice, a valid medical procedure, and we must trust women to make their own decisions. If you are a citizen of Ireland, I urge you to use this opportunity to vote on this serious issue. If you’re living abroad, check if you’re eligible to go home to vote.

Abortion has been in the news quite a lot lately, what with the British government deciding to provide all women travelling from Northern Ireland – where abortion is still illegal, despite the country – being a part of the UK – with free abortions on the NHS. You can read more about this fantastic decision here.

Decriminalising abortion will not increase the likelihood of abortions happening. We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the homes into which young women were put in order to have their babies in Ireland. Pregnancy outside of wedlock has been frowned upon for decades, and women have suffered, lost children they very much wanted, and even died because of this prejudice. Watch the Netflix documentary Children of Shame if you want to learn more. Thousands of women travel to England from Ireland in order to access abortion. The Abortion Support Network does a brilliant job in aiding such women, but it cannot help everyone. Abortion should be available within these women’s home countries. It is for such reasons that abortion must be freely available and easily accessible, allowing women to decide their own future.

If you’re passionate about trusting women and giving us choices, shout as loud as you can on social media or your blogs. Let’s help our sisters in Ireland spread the truth, fight the pro-life propaganda springing up on the streets of Ireland, and push for the Irish government to repeal the eighth.

If you’re travelling home to vote, you can join the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign’s Facebook event here. To read stories from women who have had abortions, visit the For Choice Project in the menu above, or by clicking here.

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Debut novel acquired by Bookouture

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my debut novel, The Diary, has been acquired by Bookouture!

The Diary is a tense and gripping thriller about the insular effects of strong teenage friendships and their ability to hide our most devastating lies.

Lauren returns to her home town for the ten-year anniversary of her sister Hannah’s death and finds a diary. It is full of her and her friends’ secrets. She begins to get threats against her. But no-one else has seen the diary, and only Hannah knew all their secrets. And Hannah’s dead, isn’t she?

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For the full blog post, click here.

The Diary will be released in January 2019, swiftly followed by a second novel later in the year. Readers of this blog will know that this has been my dream for a long time, and I’m so excited to join the Bookouture family.

To follow updates on my writing, please visit my author website.

In order for me to focus on my own writing, I am closing The Bandwagon to review requests for the foreseeable future.

One Cornish Summer by Liz Fenwick

Usually around this time of year, The Bandwagon hosts the Cornish Reading Challenge. Sadly, due to other commitments, the challenge isn’t happening this year. But to cheer me up, I was given a copy of One Cornish Summer by Liz Fenwick to review.

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Against the beauty of Cornwall, a story of two women struggling with their past: one cannot remember hers, the other cannot forget…

When Hebe receives a life-changing diagnosis at only 53, she struggles to make sense of what it will mean for her, her job and the man she loves. With memories slipping away by the day, she flees to the one place she has always felt safe and peaceful – Cornwall, and the house her family spent so many summers in.

Lucy is having her own crisis, and seizes the chance to follow her aunt to Cornwall. Curious about what has driven Hebe there after so many years, she also has to battle with the secret she has kept since her family’s last summer there more than ten years ago.

Both women will learn that memories live in our hearts and that sharing secrets can set you free… But can they find their way back to the things that are truly important to them?

What I love most about One Cornish Summer is the relationship between Lucy and Hebe, particularly how their similarities and differences were highlighted. Fenwick is excellent at creating female relationships, weaving in intricate details, showing both the light and the dark. I’ve said before that Fenwick is quietly feminist, and that observation remains true.

Even when dealing with darker or difficult subject material, Fenwick handles it with care and respect. Her characters drive the stories; in One Cornish Summer, you really feel for Lucy and Hebe, can connect with them so easily, and so their stories are all the more moving. Although I’m closer in age to Lucy, I could still connect with Hebe, and felt like I understood her.

This book is emotional, tragic almost, but there is light shining through. Hebe’s Alzheimer’s is depicted particularly well, as is her love. Another theme that stood out was Lucy’s relationship with her family, particularly her father.

Fenwick is a talented writer, and her love of Cornwall shines through her books. I remember seeing her visit Godolphin House on social media, and her dedication to research is very clear in this book. Through Fenwick’s pen, I can almost see the county with which I fell in love. I can hear the waves, smell the salt, feel the sunshine. Fenwick is an author I can rely on to deliver an engaging, wonderful story, each and every time.

Author Spotlight: Dan Jones

The Bandwagon presents Dan Jones, author of Man O’War, described as “a savage, electrifying SF debut that smashes together our greatest hopes and fears for
emerging technology”.

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Struggling jellyfisherman Dhiraj Om is praying for a good catch to make ends meet. So
when a valuable pleasure robot called Naomi is caught in his nets, he senses the
opportunity for a quick profit.

But Naomi’s owner, the brutal gangster Agarkka D’Souza, doesn’t take kindly to his
property being taken. Dhiraj’s illicit deal thrusts him into a web of corruption stretching
from London’s seedy underworld to the Niger Delta. There, oil barons wage bitter war
against Marxist dissidents, and Dhiraj and Naomi are hurled into violence. Can Dhiraj
save not only himself, but Naomi, who has become not only his protector and his curse,
but possibly something more?

Man O’War will be available to buy from the 1st of March 2018.

About The Author

Away from the page, Dan works for a UK Government innovation agency. He has delivered strategic technology roadmaps for the aerospace, space robotics, and cyber security sectors, at both national and international level. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

He has published short stores with rising indie publisher Woodbridge Press for their anthologies The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, and Journeys. His nonfiction work, Eat Yourself, Clarice! is a Lacanian study of Hannibal Lecter and western low culture. The second edition was published in February 2017.

Get in touch with Dan Jones on Twitter, @dgjones81, or on Facebook. For more information on his books, visit his website.

 

28th February 2018: International Day of Hygge

I love the hygge trend. I’m definitely someone who loves home comforts, cosy blankets and cups of tea. Hygge can also translate as self-care. As someone with a chronic illness, I have to take care of myself, and there’s nothing I love more than snuggling on the sofa, surrounded by candles and soft throws and that feeling of being at home.

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February 28th is International Day of Hygge. On that day, people will be sharing how they go about embracing hygge, using #internationalhyggeday.

Last year I wrote a blog post about how to bring hygge into your office. The 28th falls on a Wednesday, so I’ll be at work all day, then attending a Pilates class, which is something that greatly helps my fibromyalgia.

I’m all about embracing hygge in small ways every day, so I’ll make sure I take a proper tea break at work, sitting and meditating and just being in the moment. In the evening, we’ll have some good comfort food, maybe roasted lamb chops. I’ll make time for reading, snuggled up in the car on my lunch break or curled up on the sofa in the evening before bed, fighting off the winter with a hot drink.

Hygge is literally about enjoying life, acknowledging joy, and creating a cosy environment. It’s the little things that make your day just that bit better. For ideas on how to embrace this day, visit How To Hygge The British Way.

What will you be doing on International Day of Hygge?

Challenging big companies to reduce plastic

Unless you live under a rock, you will have seen the latest news about just how bad plastic is for the environment. According to some studies, plastic pollution is having a huge impact on our oceans and sealife, with creatures swallowing tiny bits of plastic all the time. You only have to search for ‘plastic pollution’ or ‘plastic ocean’, and you’ll find a variety of different articles, detailing just how bad this problem has become.

Now, big groups of activists have joined together and are fighting back. One particular petition is aimed at big companies to ban plastic cutlery and straws, and has almost 150,000 signatures. The petition states: “Globally, we throw away 500 million straws a day, and according to PlasticOceans.org, we dump 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic in our oceans yearly.” Those are incredibly (and infuriating) figures.

Pressure is also being put on British supermarkets to reduce plastic packaging. As detailed in my recent blog post about my journey to becoming more environmentally conscious, we as individuals can only do so much. Big companies must take more responsibility.

Not only have I signed the petition above, and similar ones, I also contacted Tesco and Asda about their plastic use. I will be contacting other supermarkets and big companies too, but these are the first responses I’ve received.

Asda:

Thank you for contacting us about this issue.
We want our customers to trust that we’re doing the right things on the issues that matter to them. That is why we recently published our commitments to reducing our use of plastic and recycling more.
We’ve already got a strong track record when it comes to reducing our packaging. We’ve reduced out total weight of packaging by 27% since 2007 and are committed to making all our Own Brand packaging recyclable by 2025.
But, we’ve challenged ourselves to look at how we can move faster on this important issue and have identified some immediate actions we can take.
  • Over the next 12 months we will be removing 10% of plastic from all our own brand products as well as continuing to work with our suppliers and other experts to explore new options and find more recyclable solutions.
  • We will be phasing out 5p ‘single use’ carrier bags from our stores in 2018, with a donation from the sale of our “bags for life” going to good causes.
  • We will also introduce a zero profit re-usable coffee cup to provide our customers with a great value alternative to single use cups. Alongside this, we will also be removing all single use cups and plastic cutlery from our head offices in 2018, with all our stores and in store cafes adopting the same policy by the end of 2019.
As part of our longer term work to look at new innovations in plastics and to find different solutions to plastic, we are also working in partnership with the UK’s leading experts in packaging technology at Leeds Beckett University Retail Institute as well as one of our biggest UK suppliers, ABP, on priority projects to develop new alternatives to plastics and more recyclable materials.
Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch and if you wish to read more on our pledge please follow the link below:
Tesco:
Thank you for contacting us.
 As part of our Little Helps plan, we have made the following commitments:
•Making all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025
•Ensuring that all paper and board used will be 100% sustainable by 2025
•Halving packaging weight by 2025 compared to 2007 levels
Our aspirations go further than these targets, and we would like to work in partnership with Government and all of our suppliers to create a closed loop system for packaging.
Across the UK in particular, we see three steps:
1. Materials and design: There is an opportunity to reduce and simplify the types of materials we use in our packaging as part of our product development process in collaboration with our suppliers.
Through the reduction and simplification of the current range and type of materials we accept in our packaging we could create over the longer term a closed loop system based on selecting only recyclable materials.
This in turn can stimulate innovation in the packaging and recycling market through increased demand (e.g. increasing the use of rPET). We will require design innovation from our suppliers, such as greater use of compostable and biodegradable materials.
2. Recovery/recycling: This is one area we need greater innovation and there is opportunity for significant government leadership.
Currently, the inconsistencies in infrastructure and recycling activities between councils make consumer education and closed loop systems impossible to build. We would welcome the creation of an integrated national collection of packaging and investment in innovative recycling facilities. This is essential to a holistic approach to packaging recycling. PRN reform is also a necessary part of the solution and we look to contributing to this process.
We do support developing a cost-effective Deposit Return System (DRS) and are currently working with a number of partners to scope a project to explore how this can operate in practice and at scale. We view DRS as only one aspect of the holistic approach that is required to achieve the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.
3. Changing customer behaviour: Behaviour change can only be driven once a recognised and understood recycling infrastructure is in place. Getting this right will support consumer education and practice (failure to do so will lead to frustration for customers and a low take up rate on recycling).
Helping individuals to make the right choices can start with simple, clear and consistent information on packaging supported by other media. We can use marketing and promotions to encourage recycling, use of own containers, and choice of packaging purchase.
These steps will build on the progress we’ve made in recent years:
•In the UK, we have removed polystyrene from our fish packaging and replaced with a more environmentally friendly plastic, avoiding 653 tonnes of polystyrene being used.
•With our meat trays, we have replaced a two layer plastic tray with a single layer plastic, thereby making 84 million trays easier to recycle and removing 96 tonnes of plastic.
•We have made significant changes to the packaging of our wet wipes with a 20% material reduction and removal of 57 tonnes of plastic. This material saving is enough to make over 10 million more packs.
Overall, over 78% of the packaging on all our own brand products is recyclable depending on if the local authority collect it.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.
It seems like they’re all making the right noises, and it’s certainly a step in the right direction, but now isn’t the time to let up the pressure. We have to start putting our money where our mouths are, and boycotting companies that refuse to take responsibility.
I’ve been on a journey to swap my cosmetics and toiletries to cruelty free (and vegan and natural, where possible), deciding to take a moral stand and refuse to give my money to companies who don’t care about these things, so why not do it with packaging waste too? We’ve recently started buying our milk from an old-fashioned milkman, who not only provides milk in glass bottles, but they also take the empty ones away to be reused. We’ve also swapped to Ocado for our shopping, buy our meat and cheese from the local farm shop, and always refuse single use bags.
While this is a lifestyle choice, it also doesn’t make sense to me that people don’t care about the environment. This is our planet, and we won’t get another one. We cannot continue to abuse it.
Let me know if you’ve had any positive responses from big companies regarding their environmental policies!

Blog Tour: False Prophet by Richard Davis

The Bandwagon is thrilled to be joining in with the False Prophet blog tour! You can read reviewer James McStravick’s review below.

A psychotic terrorist has his son. He will do anything to save him. When a rogue cult turns deadly, the FBI call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. FALSE PROPHET introduces a gripping new series from thriller writer Richard Davis.

Marshall is soon drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult, Ivan Drexler. As the scale of Drexler’s terrorist ambition becomes ever clearer, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, he must work alone, off-grid.

As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler. But the FBI are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his life. Can Saul stop the carnage before it’s too late? And can he save his son?

As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking for Saul.

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I don’t very often read agency-based thriller books, but this novel will certainly go towards changing that. I think the start of this book really helps set up the over-arcing story, as straight away we know that whoever is involved will do whatever is necessary to get what they want.

There are a few intriguing aspects about the story here, and none more so than that of the cult. This aspect alone truly shows how much the author wants this book to grip its readers; you are fed very small amounts of information about them, and this always leaves you wanting to know more about them and their end goal.

One other aspect I enjoyed but also somewhat felt was double-edged was the pacing. I really enjoyed how fast paced the story was, and I think this helped greatly towards not only making it very easy to read but also very interesting.

Even though I enjoyed the fast pacing I felt at times this hindered the characterisation as I don’t feel we ever fully got to learn about Saul Marshall, his colleagues or the work they carry out. This was more so apparent when Saul reacted in certain ways, and, without knowing him more, it made his reactions feel less human in a way, especially for someone working in the FBI.

Overall I feel the book has some great hooks and reading it is very enjoyable. I think if Richard went into more detail about his characters this would not only make it a better read but also help towards the understanding of certain scenes. I’m very much the type of person that doesn’t like it when a story has an incredibly slow pace but this can sometimes helped along by characterisation. I understand that finding that a good balance between characterisation and pacing can be difficult and I fully appreciate the type of book Richard Davis is trying to create.

With all of the above in mind I enjoyed reading this book and I think Richard can only grow stronger as he writes.

Review originally posted on The Bandwagon on April 24th 2016.

Follow the rest of the False Prophet blog tour!

False Prophet tour poster